WFC World Cup Week: English-born Carl Valentine cements name in Canadian soccer history
The final draw for the 2014 FIFA World Cup is scheduled to take place this Friday, December 6. In the days leading up to the draw, whitecapsfc.com will recount some of Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s different World Cup connections as part of "WFC World Cup Week.”
VANCOUVER, BC – A draw or win against Honduras is all Canada needed to earn its first World Cup berth in the country’s history.
The match would be played on September 14, 1985 in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
English-born Carl Valentine, who had become a Canadian citizen the year before while playing for the NASL’s Vancouver Whitecaps, wasn’t involved in any of Canada’s previous qualification matches.
He suspects it was because he had turned down the opportunity to represent Canada at the 1984 Olympics – a “missed opportunity,” he called it.
At any rate, Valentine got the call for Canada’s final World Cup qualification match and he wasn’t going to miss it – even if his stomach wasn’t exactly co-operating.
“I had whatever kind of flu,” Valentine told whitecapsfc.com. “Needless to say, it wasn't pretty. I travelled in a week before and the guys had gone through all the qualifying, done all the hard work and grinded out some great results. I felt a little apprehensive coming in for the last game. And then I get there and I’m sick and I think I’m going to miss out so that was a little bit hairy.”
The hairiness would soon subside.
September 14, 1985: Canada 2-1 Honduras
Not only did Valentine end up playing, he also assisted on both of Canada’s goals with a pair of corner kicks in the historic 2-1 victory. It remains one of the biggest highlights of Valentine’s career, and a momentous occasion in Canada’s soccer history.
As it turns out, Canada held a secret practice the day before at a private school to specifically work on set plays, and in particular, corner kicks.
“Tony Waiters was very big on set plays,” Valentine said about Canada’s head coach of the time, who also previously coached the ‘Caps. “We worked on them a lot – as we did with the Whitecaps. Bobby [Lenarduzzi] and I had been privy to that. Bobby would be on the front post and I would try to whip balls in. As it happened, that’s how both goals were created.”
The Canadians didn’t have as much success in the ensuing World Cup, where they suffered shutout losses in each of their three matches, including a 1-0 defeat to powerhouse France in the tournament opener. To date, that remains Canada’s lone appearance in a World Cup.
Despite the disappointing showing, it’s something Valentine said he will never forget.
“Obviously, it’s one of the goals of everyone to try and play in the World Cup,” said Valentine, who is currently a club ambassador with Whitecaps FC and a staff coach with the club’s Residency program. “The whole experience was a little bit surreal because we played against some of the best teams and best players in the world.”
To this day, Valentine said becoming a Canadian citizen was one of the best decisions he’s made. It’s something Whitecaps FC midfielder Gershon Koffie and striker Camilo Sanvezzo have also expressed interest in doing. Koffie, who is originally from Ghana, has already obtained his permanent residency card.
Both players have also expressed interest in playing for the Canadian senior men’s national team.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” Valentine said. “Some people look at it black and white. Maybe I couldn’t play for England or Camilo can’t play Brazil. But I think it’s more to do with living in the country, especially living in a place like Vancouver. I obviously fell in love with it and made my life here and brought up a family here. Then, to be able to go and represent the country that has given you this life … I’m sure Camilo and Gershon are feeling the same.”
“They love Vancouver and there’s an opportunity for them to go out and have a chance to play at the international level and have a chance to represent this country where they’re making their livelihood and enjoying themselves … I think it’s something that they’ll consider very seriously.”